5 Things I learned while doing a video reading of my story

It’s not as scary as you think

When I heard that Horrorgasm were calling out for authors to read samples of their work for their Virtual Conference, I felt conflicted. I’ve made 2020 my year of saying yes, meaning I’m trying as hard as I can to stop the nagging voice of doubt in my mind and put myself up for things I would never have done a year ago (skating, anyone?). But did I really have the guts to take a video of myself reading one of my own stories for everyone to see? Added to that, I knew nothing about vlogging, hadn’t edited since uni, and had zero kit. The one thing I’ve learned this year is that I need to commit before I second guess myself, so I immediately checked my savings then went onto Amazon and bought a vlogging kit. It wasn’t massively expensive, and I justified it to myself with the knowledge that I really should set up an author channel to gain more exposure (it’s true, officer!) so I bought the camera stand with built-in mic and LED light in the hope that the Horrorgasm reading wouldn’t be it’s only use.

I picked my outfit, slapped on the make-up, even curled my hair a little bit, just to feel that extra shot of confidence in the arm, and went about my reading. I read it through a few times in my bedroom with my door shut. There was nobody else in the house other than me, but it gave me that false feeling of privacy that made it seem a little less cringe-worthy to hear my pitchy little voice reading my words. After a few read-throughs, during which I isolated the section of the story that would feature according to time-limits and action, I took my little production downstairs to my writing room. I must have read it through at least twenty times. I spent most of the day going over and over my introduction and then the reading. But it did get a little easier. Comparing my first reading to my last is so interesting. My body language has changed. My mouth is less tight-lipped and terrified looking, and my words flow so much more naturally. If you are ever in the position to record a reading of your work, be prepared to read it multiple times – you will get better! And it does get easier, I promise.

YouTube training videos are a Godsend

Like I say, I’d not used an editing suite since uni. You might think having two years of a media studies degree under my belt would be of some benefit, but guys – it was over 15 years ago! Technology has changed A LOT. And, even if it hadn’t, I can’t remember much about my late teens and early twenties, let alone how to use a fucking editing suite. So, I had my video recording. Now I had to make it pretty enough for Horrorgasm to accept it. I hit YouTube like there was no tomorrow. I was on a deadline, and I knew the editing might cause me huge time issues. First thing was first – which editing software should I use? I scoured through a few videos and decided that DaVinci Resolve looked like the best fit for me. I downloaded it onto my laptop, opened it with eager anticipation…and might as well have been looking at the Mars Rover controls. I had no idea where to start, or even how to import my video clips in the first place. Back I went to YouTube. Massive shout-out to Justin Brown, whose comprehensive basics guide was a true lifesaver for me. I followed each step, making notes on the important parts (soon learning that the hot keys don’t work on a laptop but, hey ho, trial and error got me around that, too. All I can say is, thank God Ctrl+Z worked, and I could undo my many, many mistakes as I went along.

I threw in an intro and a final Canva plate to make it look somewhat professional and I suddenly had a half-decent video. Okay, so the intro has an overwhelming amount of zoom-cuts and my colour ‘correcting’ has made my complexion a little Housewives of Beverly Hills. But I had my video! Two days prior I didn’t have a vlog kit, didn’t know if I’d even be able to read my story out loud, and had ZERO clue how to go about an edit. It’s amazing how things go, sometimes!

Reading out loud is an incredible editing tool

So, during my fifteen thousand (possible exaggeration) readings, I started to notice areas of the story that sounded better with a few little tweaks. I started instinctively reading my mental amendments instead of the published text, and I think the story is improved by them.

I kind of wish I’d spotted them before the story was originally submitted and published, but you can’t turn back the clock on things like that. My year of saying yes goes hand in hands with a “No Regrets” mantra, so there is no point wasting that kind of time. But in future, I will be reading my submissions out loud to myself. It really makes a huge difference. No matter how silly you think you’ll sound, find a quiet spot and try it yourself.

It’s almost impossible to hide your natural accent

I had a small experience of this when I posted a short video to my insta account this year. One of my lovely followers in the writing community commented, “Oh, you’re a proper Lancashire lass!” Am I? I thought. In my head, particularly when I’m being recorded for whatever reason, I always thought I was quite well spoken. Reader, I’m deluded! I realised this when I was making the reading recording. I was trying my hardest to dampen down my Lancashire accent for the American audience. I did my best, but there are the odd words where it creeps back in. But hey, that’s me! It’s part of my ‘brand’ as an author, whether I like it or not. I’m not going to take elocution lessons, so I need to just get on with it.

The more you do it, the easier it gets

I cringe, watching it back. Of course I do. Everyone hates the sound of their own voice. Everyone wishes they looked a little different on camera. Everyone wishes they could orate like Lincoln. But the more I did it, the more I stopped worrying about each little step. I managed to step back and look at the whole. And it was great! If I’d stayed focusing on each little thing, I’d never have finished the video at all. And, this weekend, it was screened to an audience of horror loving conference-goers (virtual, naturally, but it still counts!). Because of this, I’ve bitten the bullet and set up my YouTube channel ready for next week, when the conference is over and I can show my family and friends who couldn’t attend. The channel’s built. I have the vlogging equipment. I know how to edit, after my extremely crash course. There’s no stopping me now, I guess.

It’s my year of saying yes, after all.

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